RPG Lexica:GHI

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Game Balance
A catch-all term for a range of different properties which are considered desirable in a game system, related to ensuring that the game exhibits fairness and scope for creativity. Typically, these will include ensuring that each player is able to contribute an equal amount to the game (the Decker problem is an example of a failure of this); ensuring that encounters are difficult enough to be challenging but not overwhelming; ensuring that no particular game ability is necessary for every character; and similar.
Occasionally used in other places as an attack against systems that players think borrowed too much from the MMO genre and video games in general. Most often seen in System Wars between people who think that Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition was a decent system with a few flaws and people who think it was the World of Warcraft edition.

Game That Must Not Be Named, The
The role-playing game FATAL. The wordy phrase is often abbreviated to TGTMNBN. FATAL itself stood for "Fantasy Adventure To Adult Lechery" in the game's first edition, but was subsequently changed to "From Another Time, Another Land". FATAL "Must Not be Named" because of two inter-related reasons. First, because mentioning this game on certain web sites all but guarantees the start of a flame war about it, possibly including vigorous and verbally aggressive defense from the game's authors. Second, because by most standards of basic game design and even social decency the game is truly, truly awful. It is not just poorly conceived and written, but outright offensive.
The most infamous and prevalent form of objectionable material is FATAL's bizarre and juvenile sexual content. For instance, character creation includes the calculation of statistics such as "Areola Size", "Hymen Resistance", and the infamous "Anal" and "Vaginal Circumference Potential". Worse, the game blithely condones rape as a character activity and contains many other instances of blatant misogyny, not to mention casual racism - for example. magic items included cursed armour types which would transform PCs into racial stereotypes. Of secondary concern is the monstrously overcomplicated rules system, which requires unwieldy dice rolls, convoluted mathematical formula and tables for everything the designer could conceivably make one for, many of which are bizarre, such as the infamous Magical Fumbles Table and, again, sexually obsessive, such as a formula for increased penile penetration during a certain position of intercourse.
If such a thing is possible, FATAL generated further controversy via the infamous "S&M" review: the long, extensive, profanity-strewn (and, in its own way, screamingly funny) RPG.net review by Darren MacLennan and Jason Sartin in which they basically rip the game a new one. Two of the authors of FATAL--Byron Hall, the primary author and editor, and "Burnout"--wrote a rebuttal to the review (in which they nitpick over the tone while failing to address any of the points the review makes), and posted it on the web; a copy of this "Childish Review and Author's Defense of F.A.T.A.L." is saved on this Wiki.

Abbreviation of "gang kill". a) To kill or defeat an enemy by ganging up on them. b) To kill or defeat an enemy trivially, with no real possibility of their being able to resist or escape, and where the killer gains no benefit from their death (not even XP). Usually used to imply that the player is having their character attack helpless enemies because of the player's need to take out stress or to somehow "punish" the GM; or vice versa, that the player characters entered a hopeless situation. Also used on online RPGs as a form of griefing.

In addition to the common meaning of a pagoda or turret built to offer an attractive view, also a reference to a famous gamer comedy story: Eric and the Gazebo, written (and copyrighted!) by Richard Arenson. In the story, the GM of a group tells them that they see a gazebo in a field they are approaching. One of the players - Eric - does not know what a gazebo is; he therefore assumes it to be a monster and attempts to engage it in combat (which ends with Eric fleeing after multiple magical arrows amazingly failed to wound the gazebo). Used as a jokey reference to an unknown creature, or to something which has been attacked by mistake.
By extension, may also be used to refer to a part of a description that does not have any in-game effect, to differentiate it from those that do (i.e., what the mention of the gazebo should have been). Usage: "Should we ask the priests if they can help us against those 'spooky shadows' we saw?" "Naah, I think it was just a gazebo."

Get Medieval
to be exceptionally violent toward something or someone. See "I'm going to get medieval on his ass" From the Quentin Tarantino film Pulp Fiction, used by gang boss Marcellus Wallace to the men he's just escaped from.

An abbreviation for "game, drama, simulation". Describes the three important aspects of an RPG which are typically traded off against each other by game design: to be an enjoyable game for game's sake, to deliver a dramatic and exciting story, and to reasonable simulate what would "really" happen in particular game situations. For example, having the characters meet in a tavern and decide to work together trades simulation off for game benefit; having villains leave clues as to their activities trades simulation off for drama; fudging dice rolls so that a character who bravely charges into a fire zone to rescue an innocent is not cut to ribbons trades game off for drama.

Geek Anime theory
A theory presented in an essay by Michael Suileabhain-Wilson. It claims that a high proportion of the popularity of "high school drama" Anime series in countries outside Japan comes from the fact that the perceived dissociation of the Japanese and Western cultures prevents viewers from losing sympathy with characters based on their own high school experiences.

Geek social fallacies
A list of five fallacies, originally presented in an essay by Michael Suileabhain-Wilson, supposedly indicating classic social errors made by "geek" types and responsible for the stereotypically dysfunctional interactions of such groups. The five geek social fallacies are:
  1. Acceptance is forever. Once initially accepted by a peer group, one is a part of it indefienitely.
  2. Friends may never criticize friends.
  3. Friends must put their friendship above all else.
  4. A friend-of-a-friend is a friend (thus, all of one's friends are expected to be friends with each other).
  5. Friends must involve friends in all activities they do.
The fallacies are particularly toxic in combination. For example, if a friend-of-a-friend is a friend, and all friends must be involved in activities, then every outing must accommodate a huge crowd. Similarly, if exclusion is disallowed and friends may not criticize, then people with hideous habits are not just allowed to continue to do them, they are encouraged to inflict them on the group.
A copy of the original article is here.

G.I. Joe Rule
A rule in Palladium books' Rifts Ultimate Edition RPG which states the last bit of armor worn by a character can stop any amount of incoming damage. This means a character with 1 point of tattered armor remaining can be struck by a nuclear bomb inflicting thousands of points of damage, yet the character will remain unharmed as the last bit of armor absorbs all of the attack.
This rule is called the "G.I. Joe Rule" after the 80's cartoon G.I. Joe where characters would always be seen ejecting unharmed from destroyed vehicles and characters remained completely unscathed amidst a hail of gunfire.
Any RPG rule concocted in such a way as to prevent character harm under any circumstance, especially by bending reality to allow average humans to sustain hits by weapons of mass destruction, can be said to be a "G.I. Joe Rule."
This term was coined by Gabriel (me!)

  1. A character who is incompetent to the point of near-unplayability in the early stages of a campaign, because they are loaded down with abilities which are initially weak but become highly powerful once the character has advanced. Typically, a gimp will count on advancing based on achievements made by other members of the party and becoming incredibly powerful; either gaining in power faster or becoming more powerful overall than a non-gimp character of similar design. An example is the "venerable druid gimp" in Dungeons & Dragons: a player can declare their druid character to be of venerable age, crippling their physical stats but improving their mental ones. Such a druid will be almost useless in the early stages of a game, due to their vulnerability in combat; but once the druid gains the ability to shape-shift, they can shape-shift to a form with more powerful physical stats while still retaining the bonuses to spellcasting given by the high mental stats they got for being venerable. Thus, such a character is a "gimp" up until they gain shape-shifting ability.
  2. As a verb: to create a gimp character, or to plan for a character to be a gimp for certain periods.
  3. When a character is being created at a level of advancement higher than the normal start point, choosing combinations of abilities or skills for that character that would have rendered the character unplayable at lower advancement levels had the player actually played through them. Gimping is one of the more common objections that some players and GMs have against the idea of characters starting the game having already advanced.
  4. To advance a skill which provides less benefit than an alternative choice would have provided. This usage comes primarily from MMORPGs; stats and skills are frequently analyzed in great detail and the optimum configuration at maximum level for a particular role is well-known. To deviate from this "min-maxed" template is to gimp your character, and the amount of deviance is the degree to which your character is said to be gimped.
Origin: From a medieval word for a stupid or incompetent person; may also be related to a term used to refer to a particular sado-masochistic practice.

Glass-jawed ninja problem
An issue with games where attack damage is based on degree of success and dodging is an all or nothing defense based on rolling over the attack's degree of success. This means that dodge-happy characters (ninjas) cannot suffer glancing blows or flesh wounds since any attack being good enough to beat their dodge score necessarily has a high enough degree of success that it cripples the ninja. Most modern games avoid this problem by having dodging reduce the attackers degree of success even if it doesn't allow them to avoid the attack completely.

Game Master PC
  1. An NPC that's controlled by the GM running the game for an extended period of time and participates in combat. May have "divine favor" if the GM feels he is critical to the story.
  2. Derogatory term for an 'uber' NPC, one who's abilities and assistance overshadow the PCs, who is still supposedly on the PCs 'side', but manages to dominate the game because of his "divine favor".
Note: By "divine favor" I mean things like: die rolls being adjusted in his favor, access to the setting's "bigwigs", absolutely amazing equipment (say, artifacts in Dungeons & Dragons games), being able to break inconvenient rules (IC or OOC), et cetera. Any time the GM may be said to be cheating in favor of "his" character, it's a GMPC. Also known as a Pet NPC.

An abbreviation for "gamism, narrativism, simulationism". A system used at The Forge to categorize gamers and game systems and experiences; an advanced and more strongly defined version of GDS. See The Forge Glossary

Golden Rule, The
"Rules were made to be broken". Traditionally a paragraph in the beginning of a game master's section of a rulebook, the golden rule states that the game's enjoyment is paramount, and that rules are only to be enforced if it enhances the play experience. It is designed to counter rules arguments by the game master ruling that the game would be more fun if the players were not arguing over exactly how much an obscure ruling reference benefits another player over them. It is interesting to note that Dungeons & Dragons V3.5's version of the golden rule (under adjudicating) states that rules should be changed for more logical sounding ones.

Role-playing games almost universally use number scales to define characters. D&D, for example, uses the now classic 3-18 scale to rate six basic attributes, such that a character with a Strength of 14 is mightier than one with a rating of 8. From a design perspective, it can be advantageous to instead use a limited scale, such as 1-6, to help keep numbers manageable. The drawback is that with a lesser range, the steps become more significant, and it can become difficult to model characters who are only slightly better or worse than each other. Designers refer to this problem as Graininess, in reference to old poor quality photographs in which large grains of pigmentation were individually visible, and thus blurred the detail of the larger image.
In some contexts, graininess refers to the number of differentiated skills or abilities that characters may take. For example, a game with only one physical statistic (such as Body) is grainier than a game with three physical statistics (such as Strength, Agility, and Toughness). The grainier method is faster, but makes it difficult to distinguish between characters who are tough but slow and those who are weaker, but lithe and quick, and usually requires some external method for making such distinctions. By contrast, excessively "smooth" systems may require characters to be defined in terms of an unwieldy number of areas, which makes character generation slow, and produces unclear distinctions between abilities (such as Exalted, which includes both Perception and Awareness, and both Charisma and Manipulation).

Greg, to
In use usually as Gregging or to have been Gregged. When a established aspect or detail of a setting is contradicted or outright rewritten by the setting's creator, usually with little explanation and for reasons stemming from a change in the creator's personal aesthetics. Specifically this term refers to writer Greg Stafford's tendency to treat the Glorantha setting as a work in progress, despite the fact that it was first published over twenty years ago.

To play a game while drawing one's main enjoyment from harassing, annoying, or hurting the game for other players. No amount of in-game penalty will discourage a griefer from harassing other players, because - as harassing other players is their main enjoyment - they do not care about anything in the game except in terms of what harassment potential it provides. In tabletop RPGs, griefers are usually quickly ejected from the group, but they can prove more of a problem in online RPGs and other public games.

Grudge monster
  1. As a noun: A monster or other dangerous opponent introduced into a game to fight or block the PCs because the GM is angry or frustrated at the players.
  2. As a verb: to put a grudge monster (in sense one) in a game, and/or to attack the PCs with one.

Guarding the horses
The "default" activity of any character whose player is not currently playing; implies that a) the player's absence is temporary, b) that the GM doesn't want to make the character an NPC, and c) the character won't be doing anything IC. Started, of course, in fantasy games; has sometimes been extended to other genres, even ones without horses ("So, where's our street sam while we're raiding this lab?" "Um, guarding the cyber-horses, I guess.")

Gygax, Gygaxian
An adjective form of the name of one of the founders of the role-playing hobby, E. Gary Gygax. When used as an adjective, Gygax's name indicates that the item so modified breaks some commonly held assumption about the world (often pertaining to the logical construction of an area). RPGnet member Steve Darlington once observed that a Gygaxian dungeon, for instance, often resembles a game of Let's Make a Deal as re-imagined by a homicidal SCAdian on PCP. ("Behind door number one: INSTANT DEATH! Behind door number 2: A magic crown! Behind door number 3: ten pounds of sugar being guarded by six giant KILLER BEES!") This style of design is generally earmarked by the following:
  1. Dungeons apparently designed solely for adventurers to adventure in, rather than a structure built for another purpose which has now been lost, forgotten, or re-purposed.
  2. The presence of monsters who, logically, have no business being where they are and would have starved to death without a constant stream of adventurers stumbling into them.
  3. Monsters which seem designed specifically to kill adventurers, such as a metamorph which lures prey by imitating a treasure chest.
  4. A profusion of remarkably deadly traps, particularly ones serving as punishment for seemingly random, innocent, and even logical actions; for example, a throne which automatically kills any character who sits in it without wearing the crown and holding the scepter, then proceeds to destroy said character's soul to prevent his resurrection.
  5. Traps which would tend to kill any residents who made a minor mistake such as stepping on the wrong tile or forgetting one's key.
  6. Cursed magic items which automatically kill or permanently harm a character attempting to use them, usually designed to function as expected until the user is in mortal danger, with the curse utterly undetectable until activated.
  7. An extremely overblown writing style which seems to imply excessive use of a thesaurus. This "Gygaxian prose" is best exemplified by his work in the AD&D 1st edition Dungeon Masters Guide.


Hack and Slash
A style of gameplay wherein the main focus is combat. Attempting to talk or reason with an NPC in such a game, rather than just kill them, is most likely to result in confusion or mockery from the other players. A close relative of the Dungeon Crawl, and likewise most common in fantasy games.

Hitpoint gain problem
A modeling difficulty arising from the use of hit points. In many game systems, as a character improves in skill, they also gain hit points. This is intended to represent the dramatic phenomenon, seen in many fantasy films and stories, whereby more heroic characters are capable of sustaining greater amounts of damage without being visibly affected. However, systems using hit points do not distinguish between types of damage where drama would not apply, leading to the situation of highly skilled characters being able to throw themselves off 100-foot cliffs without being hurt, because they will still have plenty of hit points spare after losing those that represent the damage from the fall.

Holding Tank
The notional part of an RPG club where new players wait to become involved in games. Because most RPG players tend to enjoy long-term campaigns with a fixed group of a particular size, new arrivals to a club or other RPG playing venue can find themselves with no game to play in because all other players are already involved in long-term campaigns that were established before the new player arrived. The existence of the holding tank for RPGs, compared to other gaming hobbies such as miniatures or board gaming where it is not needed, is one of the reasons commonly referred to for the difficulty in recruiting new RPG players.

Horse Bombing
Abusing a magical or supernatural ability that creates objects, and is not intended to be used as an attack, by exploiting the offensive value of generally being able to create objects from thin air. Examples include using a spell intended to provide food and water for allies, to create water or food inside an enemy's brain case; or the example that defines the term: using a spell that summons a horse for the caster to ride by casting it several hundred feet above a stationary or unaware enemy so that the horse falls on them at high velocity.


"I'm going to get medieval on his ass"
A quote from the movie Pulp Fiction that basically means the PCs are about to do something very violent, probably fatal, and definitely painful to whoever is referenced by 'his'. Often followed by another Pulp Fiction line: "Zed's dead, baby."

Impossible Thing Before Breakfast
For the GM to maintain complete authorial control of the story while the players at the same time retain complete protagonist control of their characters. That is, for both the players and GM to simultaneously run the game as exclusively "their" story. Although this paradox is often unintentionally presented as the ideal model for running RPGs, it is quite possibly impossible and attempts to achieve this unattainable situation have been responsible for a lot of failed role-playing. It's coinage as a term in RPG theory is by Ron Edwards - the phrase itself originated in Alice in Wonderland, where the Queen tells Alice that "sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." It's also possible that it entered the lexicon via Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, where the advertising campaign for Milliways, a restaurant that exists at the end of the universe, is "If you've done six impossible things this morning, why not round it off with breakfast at Milliways, the Restaurant at the End of the Universe?"

Intelligence problem
The difficulty encountered in enabling Intelligence stats to work correctly in games which have them. The problem arises from the fact that Intelligence will affect the character's ability to choose what to do next. Since making these choices for their characters is the key means by which players are involved in the RPG, these choices must be left to the player; but if they are left to the player, the choice will be made based on the player's level of intelligence, not the character's.

Inverse Ninja Law
A paradox in games (usually with strong martial art themes) where a sole ninja can often be a dangerous show-stopping foe, but a group of ninjas can be mowed through with ease by a group of players. Thus, the Inverse Ninja Law: Sum Ninja Effectiveness = 1/Ninjas.

Typically used in forum thread titles, an abbreviation for "I seek the x knowledge of", properly followed by the subject of inquiry. The variable x is the name of the forum, implying a request for the aid of the forum community as a whole. It seems to have originated on the RPGnet Tangency forum as "I summon the Tangency knowledge of" (later abbreviated "ISTTKO"), used by those seeking information on an obscure topic, often before even trying to Google for it. Replacing "Tangency" with a variable forum name came later; widely used on the RPGnet Open forum is ISTOKO (where x = Open, obviously). While this terminology originated on RPGnet, it is unknown to this contributor if its use has spread to other fora.

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